III Corps (United Kingdom)

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III Corps
III corps.svg
Formation sign of III Corps during the Second World War.[1]
ActiveFirst World War and Second World War
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
TypeField corps
EngagementsBattle of the Marne
First Battle of the Aisne
Battle of La Bassee
Battle of Messines (1914)
Battle of Armentieres
Battle of the Somme 1916
German retreat to the Hindenburg Line 1917
Battle of Cambrai 1917
First Battles of the Somme 1918
Battle of Amiens
Second Battles of the Somme 1918
Battles of the Hindenburg Line
The Final Advance in Artois
Retreat to Dunkirk 1940
Greece 1944
Duke of Connaught
Sir William Pulteney
Richard Butler
Sir Ronald Adam
Ronald Scobie
Corps formation sign during the First World War.[2]III Corps WW1.svg

III Corps was an army corps of the British Army formed in both the First World War and the Second World War.

Prior to the First World War[edit]

In 1876, a mobilisation scheme for eight army corps was published, with '3rd Corps' headquartered at Croydon and composed of the guards regiments. In 1880 its order of battle was:

  • 1st Division (Croydon)
    • 1st Brigade (London)
    • 2nd Brigade (Croydon)
      • 3rd Bn. Grenadier Guards (Chelsea), 1st Bn. Coldstream Guards (Shorncliffe), 1st Bn. Scots Guards (Wellington Barracks)
    • Divisional Troops
    • Artillery
      • C/5th Brigade RA (Ipswich), B/5th Brigade RA (Chatham), B/6th Brigade RA (Woolwich)
  • 2nd Division (Red Hill)
  • 3rd Division (Tunbridge Wells)
    • 1st Brigade (Tunbridge Wells)
    • 2nd Brigade (Maidstone)
    • Divisional Troops
      • Sussex Militia (Chichester), Leicestershire Yeomanry (Leicester)
    • Artillery
      • B/1st Brigade RA (Shorncliffe), C/1st Brigade RA (Shorncliffe)
  • Cavalry Brigade (Ashford)
  • Corps Artillery (Croydon)
    • K Battery A Brigade RHA (Exeter), F Battery B Brigade RHA (Exeter)

This scheme had been dropped by 1881.[3] The Stanhope Memorandum of 1891 (drawn up by Edward Stanhope when Secretary of State for War) laid down the policy that after providing for garrisons and India, the army should be able to mobilise three army corps for home defence, two of regular troops and one partly of militia, each of three divisions. The 1901 army estimates introduced by St John Brodrick allowed for six army corps based on the six regional commands (Aldershot, Southern, Irish, Eastern, Northern and Scottish).[4] From 1 October 1901, the Duke of Connaught held the dual commands of CinC Ireland and GOCinC III Corps.[5][6] Under Army Order No 38 of 1907, the title III Corps disappeared, but the Irish Command was constituted as a corps comprising 3rd Cavalry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division and 6th Infantry Division.[4]

First World War[edit]

Pre-war planning for the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) did not envisage any intermediate headquarters between GHQ and the six infantry divisions. However, on mobilisation the decision was made to conform to the two-division army corps organisation employed by the French armies alongside which the BEF was to operate and corps HQs therefore had to be improvised.[7] III Corps HQ was formed in France on 31 August 1914 under Sir William Pulteney, taking over 4th Division, part of which had already fought at Le Cateau, and 6th Division, which arrived in early September. It was first engaged in the First Battle of the Marne, and remained on the Western Front throughout the Great War.[8]

First World War composition[edit]

The composition of army corps changed frequently. Some representative orders of battle for III Corps are given here.

As initially constituted:[9]

General Officer Commanding: Major-General William Pulteney

Order of Battle at start of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916:[11]

General Officer Commanding: Lieutenant-General Sir William Pulteney

Order of Battle during the final advance in Artois, 8 October 1918:[12]

General Officer Commanding: Lieutenant-General Richard Butler

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War, III Corps was formed in France under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Forbes Adam to control forces of the British Expeditionary Force, after the expansion of that force had rendered control by just two corps headquarters cumbersome. The Corps was withdrawn from Dunkirk after the defeat of British forces by the Germans in May 1940.

Second World War composition[edit]

Order of Battle at Dunkirk:[13][14]

GOC: Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Forbes Adam (Lieutenant-General Sydney Rigby Wason after 26 May 1940[15])

After commanding forces in the United Kingdom during late 1940, from the Old Rectory in Whitchurch, Shropshire within Western Command,[24] the corps was used for deception purposes. It eventually ended up being transferred to Persia and Iraq Command as part of the British Tenth Army, under General Sir Edward P. Quinan. It took command of a number of formations there, including the British 5th Infantry Division.

On 16 October 1944 it became the headquarters for Lieutenant-General Ronald Scobie for operations in the Greek Civil War: at this point it received operational formations. Forces in Greece included 23rd Armoured Brigade.[25] On 17 December 1944 it was redesignated HQ Land Forces and Military Liaison (Greece).

General Officers Commanding[edit]

Commanders have included:[26]

From 1901 to 1905 the commander of the troops in Ireland was also commander 3rd Army Corps.


  1. ^ Cole p. 27
  2. ^ JPS card no. 18
  3. ^ Army List 1876–1881.
  4. ^ a b Dunlop.
  5. ^ Monthly Army List October 1901.
  6. ^ a b "No. 27360". The London Gazette. 1 October 1901. p. 6400.
  7. ^ Official History 1914 Volume I p. 7.
  8. ^ The British Corps of 1914-1918
  9. ^ Official History 1914 Volume I Appendix I.
  10. ^ The 6th Division in 1914-1918
  11. ^ Middlebrook Appendix 1
  12. ^ The final advance in Artois
  13. ^ Official History 1939-40, Appendix I
  14. ^ Richard A. Rinaldi, Royal Engineers, World War II at Orbat.com. Archived 4 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Grehan 2018, Chapter 4
  16. ^ "3 Corps".
  17. ^ "5 RHA".
  18. ^ 97 (Kent Yeomanry) Field Regiment RA (TA)
  19. ^ "51 (Midland) Medium Regiment RA (TA)".
  20. ^ 56 (Highland) Medium Regiment RA (TA)
  21. ^ 54 (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) LAA Rgt RA (TA)
  22. ^ Regiments.org
  23. ^ "3 Survey Regiment RA".
  24. ^ Newbold, p. 202
  25. ^ RAF/Journal_46_Seminar_N_Med_Ops_in_WW_II_Italy_Balkans_Greece.pdf[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Army Commands Archived 5 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "No. 27676". The London Gazette. 13 May 1904. p. 3083.
  28. ^ William Pulteney at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  29. ^ Richard Butler at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  30. ^ "Ronald Scobie". Orders of Battle.com.


  • Lt-Col Ewan Butler & Maj J.S. Bradford, The Story of Dunkirk, (London, nd).
  • Cole, Howard (1973). Formation Badges of World War 2. Britain, Commonwealth and Empire. London: Arms and Armour Press.
  • Col John K. Dunlop, The Development of the British Army 1899–1914, (London 1938).
  • Grehan, John (2018). Dunkirk Nine Days That Saved an Army: A Day by Day Account of the Greatest Evacuation. Yorkshire: Frontline Books. ISBN 978-1526724847.
  • JPS Cigarette card series, Army, Corps and Divisional Signs 1914–1918, John Player and sons, 1920s.
  • Martin Middlebrook The First Day on the Somme (London, Allen Lane, 1971).
  • Newbold, David John. "British planning and preparations to resist invasion on land, September 1939 - September 1940". King's College, University of London.
  • Official History 1914: Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds, Military Operations France and Belgium, 1914: Mons, the Retreat to the Seine, the Marne and the Aisne, August–October 1914 3rd revised edn 1933 (reprint Imperial War Museum, 1992) (ISBN 1870423569).
  • Official History 1939-40: Ellis, Major L.F., History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The War in France and Flanders 1939-1940, London: HMSO, 1954.

External links[edit]